Firefighters quickly extinguished a fire in the Las Baulas National Marine Park Monday night. Approximately half of a hectare of the park’s area was burned, according to park rangers.
The cause of the fire is still undetermined, but authorities believe illegal burning near the park could be to blame.
“We don’t know how it happened,” Park Ranger Bernal Cortéz said. “It seemed really big at night, but firefighters put it out quickly enough that the damage was minimal.”
During the Costa Rican dry season, forest fires are common, particularly in the dry northwestern province of Guanacaste. The park’s fire is one of the first of the forest fire season, which started Jan. 15.
The 2013 dry season was the worst for forest fires in the last 11 years. According to a press release from the National System of Conservation Areas, firefighters battled a total of 163 fires last year, 104 of which were inside national parks. The fires burned 55,610 hectares of land.
Despite the increase in fires, National Commission of Forest Fires Coordinator Diego Román told the Spanish daily La Nación that his organization receives $847,000 less a year than the minimum required to fight fires.
The first draft of a bill for a new Fire Law has sat on the floor of the Legislative Assembly since last January. If passed, the law would mandate a prison sentence between three and 15 years for causing a forest fire. It would also allocate additional funds to fight fires.
This month, the Environment Ministry will finish another draft of the bill to be reviewed by the Legislative Assembly in its final session, which ends April 30.